Heller (Crystal Clear, 1997, etc.) adds a wide miss to a hit-or-miss record with a clichéd and carelessly plotted romantic suspenser about mistaken identities.
Divorced from a man who didn't appreciate her, 30-something Nancy Stern’s “good years” are slipping away, as her wacky, romantically desperate best friend Janice reminds her. The women are both preschool teachers at Small Blessings, an elite Manhattan nursery school, but after hours Janice zanily cruises bookstores and proposes on first dates, while Nancy is stuck in her quiet, single routine. That changes fast when celebrity journalist Nancy Stern moves into her building and narrator Nancy Stern mistakenly receives invitations and phone calls opening vistas onto a more glamorous life. Though Nancy the journalist is unpleasant and unhappy, Nancy the narrator envies the trappings of her life enough to hijack a piece of it when exclusive-jewelry store manager Bill Harris phones to arrange a blind date. Pretending to be her neighbor, Nancy I dates Bill; they fall in love, but she calls it off rather than confess her deception. When Nancy II’s unexplained murder makes the front pages, Bill returns, angrily demands the truth, then leaves. The lovers are reunited by a stolen brooch (a misdirected gift from one of Nancy's rich young preschoolers), and before long they're living together, on the trail of jewel-thieves and murderers, headed toward a picture-perfect wedding on Block Island. Heller counts on his heroine’s charm to carry the reader past forced plot turns, unlikely decisions, and glaring coincidences, but Nancy is more often smug, glib, coy, or vulgar—much less endearing traits.
What doesn’t strain credulity is entirely predictable.